Hello, reader! I hope you know that by getting this far on a Monday you are a champion. Mondays are rubbish, and you are clearly owning this one already. Good for you.
Yesterday I wrote a blog about stuff we the mid-twenties team are too old to do now, and my house mate Ash wrote a brilliant response about stuff she knows she shouldn’t do, but still does: take a look at it here. Ash and I both have birthdays around the corner, which could explain why we have ageing and childhood on our minds. As Ash points out in her blog post, when you’re younger your birthdays are milestones of opportunity – you can drive now, you can drink now, you can drink in America now – but as the milestones go by you start to look back and see what you can’t (or shouldn’t) do anymore.
It might seem a bit rich for two girls in their mid-twenties to make grand, tragic statements about the perils of ageing, so my apologies to anyone who thinks that we’re drama queens. I can only defend us by saying that a) we are so recently past the last “good” milestone that we are still adjusting to the idea of birthdays being bad, and b) we are drama queens. We have our own tiaras and everything.
Today I have decided to take a more positive approach about this loss-of-childhood thing: I have thought about what kind of childhood I will want my kids to have, and what kind of lessons I most want them to learn.
1) How to Bake
My mum is wonderful for many reasons, but I think one of my favourite things about her is that she taught us all how to bake. I can whip up a sponge cake in half an hour (including cooking time. That’s right. Don’t hate me ’cause you ain’t me) because many years ago my mum took the time to show me, and to have fun with her daughter as well as teach her a great life skill. Baking is one of the few loopholes that allows grown-ups to behave like kids: you can make a mess, you can make incredibly unhealthy but yummy food, and you can decorate the crap out of said food with glitter and icing.
Baking also results in being able to feed people nice things. It’s probably the Irish genes coming through, but I love making people birthday cakes, biscuits and what have you. Ash (who is, if anything, even more obsessed with baking than I am) would agree with me that one of the greatest joys in life is giving people cake. Such a simple activity results in so much joy. I want my children to have fun learning to bake, and to spend the rest of their lives using that skill to make themselves and other people happy.
2) Creativity is a Super Power
Speaking of my mum and baking, I have to take this opportunity to say that the woman makes INCREDIBLE cakes. Kids’ cakes, wedding cakes, beautiful cupcakes arranged in a weird tower thingy: you name it, she can do it. Look at these:
The woman made a DINOSAUR CAKE, for crying out loud. That is the closest thing to a super power that anyone could have, in my opinion. She passed her amazing artistic abilities down to us in varying degrees, but the most active artist among us is my brother, who paints stuff like this:
It makes me sick that he can paint so well, and I can’t even draw stick people. These are just two examples of the kind of creativity that makes my jaw drop, but my life is full of people who excel at singing, acting, writing, dancing and all manner of other things. I want my children to understand that having a creative outlet is a wonderful thing that allows you to process all kinds of thoughts, emotions and impulses, and that creativity in others is something to love and respect. Which leads me neatly onto my next lesson…
This is a big one, and it covers all sorts of things. If I ever have a daughter, I want her to respect herself. I want her to ignore global media’s insistence that women are supposed to be as thin, tall and beautiful as possible. If I have a son, I want him to respect himself too. I want him to shun masculine stereotypes and just be himself, not what society tells him to be. I want my kids to respect their family, their friends and their colleagues. I hope that my children will understand from an early age that it is not acceptable to take their stress out on other people, and that every person they meet deserves to be spoken to politely and listened to attentively. They will say “please” and “thank you”, they will not judge others based on race, religion, sexual preference or appearance, and I’ll be damned if they ever do the unthinkable and jump a queue.
4) Learning is for Life, not just for Christmas
My family is full of people who learn like it’s going out of fashion. As far as I’m concerned, my maternal grandfather knew everything there was to know, and he instilled a passion in me for knowledge and understanding. Similarly, I have absolutely no idea how my dad’s head can contain all of the information that it does, or how he has had the time to acquire so much knowledge. My eldest sister is passionate about travel, and she loves exploring far-away places and learning about their cultures. This also ties in with my genetic predisposition to read everything I can, which I sincerely hope my children inherit. Life is a long and fascinating process of discovery, and I want my kids to love learning. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but wanting to understand the world we live in is a wonderful trait, and I prefer dogs to cats anyway.
If my genes are anything to go by, my children will be stubborn, impulsive and in all likelihood addicted to coffee by the time they’re sixteen. They will probably be very sociable and prone to excessive sarcasm. That’s all fine. They will also, I hope, have dreams and ambitions. I want them to have the commitment and energy to pursue their passions, and to encourage others to do the same. I also want them to love people whole-heartedly, and to avoid the commitment-phobic, “we don’t want to put a label on it”, casual relationships that dominate my generation. I don’t know how things will have changed in the dating world by the time my kids are of age to fancy people, but if they have the self-respect and ability to love that I want them to, then they will know better than to accept sub-standard relationships and undefined entanglements. If that fails, then hopefully the future father of my children will have a shovel at the ready to discourage would-be unsuitable suitors.
There are loads of other little bits and pieces that I want to teach my children, such as how to ride a bicycle and where babies come from, but these five lessons represent my future parenting priorities. I also realise that this blog has essentially been a vehicle for me to extol the virtues of my lovely family, but I don’t think that’s surprising given that they are the people who shaped my childhood. I owe them a lot, and I can’t wait for my future children to meet them.
Have a cracking Monday!